Sunday, January 29, 2012

Humans are Competitive

We will make a competition out of almost anything.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Just My Opinion

For the record, I don’t particularly care for Newt Gingrich.  He is abrasive, obstinate, and at times inflammatory, but he is also coherent, intelligent, and consistent in his politics.  I am not sure these are bad qualities for someone who may be in a position to make hard choices and then have to stand behind them.
A few days ago I wrote about not caring for either of the leading Republican candidates, but since then there has been an onslaught of attacks against Gingrich, based on rumor, innuendo and outright lies.  When I see this scale of attack I have to ask what is behind it and why?  I think both are fairly easy to answer.
Why are we seeing this now?  Simple - Romney and the money people who run the mainstream Republican Party are losing, on the issues and on the candidate; so they are using all those funds he has amassed to win Florida no matter the cost.  What they don’t seem capable of understanding is the cost they will pay is the defeat of their candidate in the fall, if he successfully becomes the Party nominee.
They have unleashed all the tools they command, like blogosphere media celebrities Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge and his “Drudge Report” and employed willing mainstream outlets like ABC and CNN.  Heck, even that couch sitting Nancy Pelosi has implied she has dirt on Mr. Gingrich.  Yet when you dig below the surface none of these attacks actually bring new information to the surface. For examples see Ms. Pelosi only citing public record, and The American Spectator, why is that?
I think it is because the money of the Republican Party and the mainstream media know the fiscal conservative Mr. Gingrich brings to the table an agenda that will disrupt the business as usual approach, with unlimited pork barrel spending, the Congress thrives on.  What you are seeing today is reminiscent of the Bush-Reagan primaries of 1980, where Mr. Reagan was accused of "Voodoo Economics."  Can Mr. Gingrich win in the fall?  I don’t know.  But I am now convinced Mr. Romney cannot.   That is just my opinion.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Quiet Weeknight.

There are times when you just want to kick off your shoes, be grateful for the life you’ve been given and explore the Internet for music you’ve not heard.  Do you know how many versions of “The House of the Rising Sun” there are?  There are bunches!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Just a Reflection

I remember a time, not so long ago, when character counted to lead this country.  We looked to men who had shown commitment and character, or at least had masked their indiscretion and maintained their marriage.  I am not sure if what we see today is a better reality or not?
When Ronald Reagan was elected, he was the first President who had ever been divorced and remarried.  What the SC primary shows is fidelity is no longer an issue with even the religious right when it comes to selecting a candidate.
I think Mr. Gingrich is more articulate and perhaps more representative of the conservative agenda of the Republican Party, and Mr. Romney is at best a milk toast politician, but Mr. Gingrich’s morality bother’s me.  While I won’t be voting for Mr. Obama after four years of failed presidency, I am left with a real conundrum with the choice the Republican Party will field.

Sometimes I Wonder

There are times I sit in amazement and wonder -- why am I am so disconnected with the reality confronting me at the moment.  Friday (20 Jan 12), was one of those days.  I was caught somewhere between “Where’s Flick?” from A Christmas Story and “The Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The life of a petty bureaucrat can be that way sometimes. 
Right now, with the overseas commitments the Air Force supports, the stress of dealing with impending and significant budget cuts, reductions in the people available to work various projects, and at my level, a commander who wants to change direction 180 degrees and do it instantaneously there is tremendous stress on the people who make up the intellectual power of the command.
There has been a noticeable increase in suicides over the past several months and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force has sent down direction for all the senior officers are to take time out to talk with their staffs, and the people that work for them to assure them there is support if they are feeling burdened and stressed out to the point they are considering suicide.  Sooooo, as I sit in the briefing that was supposed to start as 3:30, but doesn’t begin until 4:00, and listen to the commander discuss the support that is available and then wander off into what kind of organizational changes should we make, and how people at his last job dealt with problems, and how he now wants to make sure that people outside our organization are consulted before we do the routine tasks we do everyday I sit and think through the day, until he comes to the point of asking, “What would you like to tell me?”
This is where I am caught in the horns of a dilemma?  What do I say that has even a remote possibility of improving things?  Something that would show the need for everything right now means we compromise our ability to think forward as we put effort against the crisis de’jour.  As in any organization that involves more than one person there are three things that affect the achievement or advancement of goals -- money, vision, and focus.  An organization that has a vision and purpose and can focus the work effort of its people can do nothing if it does not have the capital to proceed.  Likewise an organization without focus will dither away its capital without achieving the long-term vision.
As we reduce funding, and our leadership changes vision it is inevitable we loose focus, but the demands of instantaneous analysis without the depth or time to accomplish it bothers the heck out of me.  
In today’s world, as we transition from sustained war, and shrink to a smaller force, the one question, unasked and unanswered, is does a Commander ever have the courage to say, when pressed by his or her commander, I can no longer do a mission I am assigned but no longer resourced for?  Having spent forty-years associated with the Air Force there is one fundamental truth, you don’t get promoted by saying “We can’t do that!” 
I am fortunate to work with friends and peers who have all grown up in the same environment I have.  They take pride in their work and they have, for the most part, secure family and social circles.  They have demonstrated the ability to work well under pressure, but as that pressure increases my challenge will be to modify my demands on them, or figure out how to provide them sufficient information to minimize the inevitable increase in stress, as now they have to worry about their job security.  Something new for most of them, since government employment has historically expanded, not contracted.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


In the early 1950’s there was a fighter pilot/tactician named John Boyd, who set out to determine how one pilot gained an advantage on another in a dog fight.  He put his thoughts down in a tactical concept that became known as the OODA Loop.  His thoughts and theories are still taught as a basis for military decision-making.
He broke down  decision-making into four simple and separable steps each of which is critical to success.  OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.  He believed if you can turn inside your opponent’s decision-making process, if you can react quicker then he or she, you would come out victorious.
Observe - What is the situation, what is your opponent doing or is likely to do?
Orient – What is your relative position to the opponent or the problem?
Decide – What course of action brings you into a position of advantage based on the first two?
Act – quickly take decisive action to implement your decision, but as you do begin observing to determine your next action.
I think this remains good advice for us in normal life as well as when pulling 9 g’s in a turning fight at 30,000 feet. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

What is the Role of the Government in Individual Choice?

There is an emotionally charged debate that has been going on in this country, probably since abortion became a medically viable option.  It moved from a local and state issue to the national level with the 1973 landmark decision in Roe versus Wade.  Today, advocates for a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy for convenience say any candidate who expresses a personal choice in favor of carrying a viable fetus to term is “at war against women” (see Emily's List).  
In Roe v. Wade, and reaffirmed by a narrow 5-4 decision in “Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania v. Casey” the court finds that the decision on abortion rests with the doctor and patient in the first trimester, but continues to allow the state to set conditions after that, as long as it does not place undue burden on the woman seeking an abortion. To me, if you put the individual moral discussion aside for a moment, it boils down to the question “What is the role of government regarding individual choice?” 
Is it the right of the government to oversee every decision a man or woman makes with their life?  The pro-choice individuals I’ve discussed this with almost universally argue along the lines of “No politician has the right to tell me what I can or can not do with my body!”  If that is the central issue then why it is necessary to use federal funds to pay for abortion?  If you don’t want politicians involved in a personal decision then why open the door at all for them by asking for their wallet?  As in other interactions when one person controls the financial position of another they invariably believe they have the right to tell the dependent what they should or should not do.  This really seems to be the kicker in this debate.  It’s really not about the right of an individual to make a choice but the expectation the federal government must fund it.
If there is an expectation that individual choice must be funded by tax dollars how can you not assume even a supportive politician (or a nameless government official) won’t find a way to tell you how you must behave?  The debate on a woman’s right to choose is only clouded by those who believe the government must fund abortion on demand; for me it seems a very small step from one woman’s expectation, to abortion decision making by committee.  For those who would say this couldn’t possibly happen I ask only that you look back to the 1930’s to 50’s when the decision to perform lobotomies was given to parents and the state.  We have seen the government experiment with sterilization of mental patients, and use citizens from other countries (US apologizes for experiment) to test the effects of STD so don’t for one minute believe we are not capable of deciding to control the population through forced abortion. Too “old school?” How about 1965 when the DoD used human subjects to test measure how much VX nerve agent the rubber clothing and gas masks could stand, or when the DoD sprayed Bacillus globigii on Oahu to simulate an attack on an island complex.  There are more recent examples but I only did a 1-minute internet search.
I am pretty sure the next issue would be what about those women who can’t afford the medical procedure?  Isn't this the right place for those pro-abortion groups to spend their money, rather than on the lobbyists?  Should poverty be a justification for the government to control a personal decision any more than with the rich?
Bottom line:  If you want the right to control your own body, then the last thing you should do is allow the Federal Government to be a part by demanding they fund that decision?
P.S.  If I wasn't so simple I would probably consider the real issue for most of these women's groups is how many dollars they can get from the federal government to pay for their existence, but that would be just wrong and they are far too altruistic for that.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A New Day (a personal prayer)

A new day begins with the light in my window, the sounds of the chickadees, and the gentle resonance of my wife beside me.  What does this day hold, what trials or triumphs?  There is much to learn from the morning, as it beckons us forward through life.  Each moment is unique, it is here and then gone.  If we focus on the past, or we dream too long of the future we miss now.
As this day unfolds I hope to be better than I was yesterday, to have learned and changed and grown.  Today.   

Friday, January 13, 2012

Life and Purpose

What causes one twin to be successful and another to find no reason for living? What separates us from each other as we go on you journey through life?  Why, as I look back at my life, did I succeed to the degree I have, while others, more talented, more gifted and perhaps more intelligent than I failed?
There are hundreds, and tens of hundreds of books and theories on this subject.  Everyone has a belief or a theory on what in the human psyche causes these differences.  Using a sample size of one, I suggest it is purpose.  If, as a child, they can anchor their lives to a goal, individual and specific, they will succeed.  If, on the other hand, they anchor themselves to others and their goals, they will flounder when separated.
We each need goals, even as we age, for without them how do we maintain a purpose in life, and a value in the days we are given?  I hope as you look into your life there are positive and affirming goals that drive you to be better today than yesterday, and you are never satisfied with the average.
This song, from a time between High School and College. and from a place not far from my home shows what an artist can do when he has purpose.  Enjoy. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Modern Education and Our Future

A other day I came across the above article about how some elementary teachers had attempted to link their math assignments with a social studies class they had taught on American Slavery.  In looking at the questions they posed to the students the teachers reflected either a complete lack of reasonable judgment or worse, a stereotypical Southern bigotry.  Since Norcross appears to be an upscale community northeast of Atlanta, for the moment lets assume the teachers were just stupid and not atypical bigots.
Today’s news has the community up in arms and calling for the dismissal of the teachers.  Certainly a plus for them when compared with time honored Southern tradition of lynching those people you don’t care for.  But I would like to write about what this incident brings out in us, and what if anything, we will do to change.  Not about whether Norcross should follow or abandon its time honored traditions. As I do from time to time I posted the article on a social media network and was somewhat surprised by some of the responses.
My first question -- Are the qualities of prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry inevitable human traits, and if they are how do we limit their impact on our society, and if not how do we begin the process of removing them from our nature?  As I look around and study history I find very little evidence to suggest humans have ever lived without prejudice and bias against others outside their group, we have unlimited examples of mans intolerance of opposing views.  Bigoted behavior can be found in every society I am aware of.  So on the surface it appears these qualities are prevalent traits, but where do they come from?  Surely they are not there from some genetic quality are they? Are we born with a prejudice gene?  No, I think they are learned behaviors, passed father to son, mother to daughter, and adult to child, as part of the maturing process.  Children see and hear what their parents do so often they internalize those qualities as their own, unless there is some compelling event that breaks that chain.
Within our nation we have had waves of immigration, and each wave brought about new problems we as a society had to work through.  Whether the English, French, Irish, Germans, Italian, Norse, East European, Asian, Latino, African or Middle Eastern; each has caused a shift in our culture and were discriminated against until they are assimilated into the fabric of our nation.  Some assimilate quickly, they learn the nations language, they blend in with community they settle in, marrying outside their historical group, etc.  Others do not, they maintain their home country’s culture, language, social links, or there are physical differences that separate them and make assimilation harder.  But each group has had to or still deals with discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice.  I’ve purposely avoided identification of the religious groups but they too have experienced this same problem of bigotry, which is, in a way, quite funny when you consider this nation was founded by Europeans seeking religious freedom.
So I come back to my question, how do we limit the impact of this prejudice and bigotry on our society?  Do we follow a path where we never discuss the problem for fear of hurting someone’s feelings, or do we lay it on the table and teach people there is a problem we have to deal with?  For me it seems obvious we have to talk about it, because if we shutter it away it festers until it boils over.  It is like Aunt Elsie’s drinking problem, it will just sit there until she dies of cirrhosis of the liver unless we intervene.  But what about children who may be subjected to this bigotry and abuse and hurt by it, how do we protect them?  Seems like a good question, but the real concern is do we benefit them if we do?
If bigotry exists and we can’t eradicate it from society with the wave of a wand then don’t we owe it to the victims to teach them how best to deal with this evil?  If we shelter them, at what point do we let them become adults responsible and capable of dealing with life’s problems on their own?  It is painful for a loving and concerned adult see someone you love hurt.  But hurt in life is inevitable, it is how we deal with it, and how we teach our loved ones to deal with it that offers our society a chance to grow out of petty emotions like hate.  If the children are protected and sheltered from all this hate, then when they are on their own who will intervene on their behalf?  Isn’t that one of the problems we see today where so many believe it is the governments responsibility to make up for their choices?  Don’t mistake this for a position advocating that bigotry and discrimination should be tolerated, where it exists it must be addressed through the civil and criminal process, but I am saying that children should not be sheltered from this process, they should be loved by those who love them, and taught that bigotry exists and how to stand up for themselves.  To do less will set them up for failure in life.  The true victims will be the children who have parents who don’t provide the love and support they need and react to these issues with hate and violence of their own.  That is a problem I don’t know how we address, as it does not provide progress towards acceptance, but just perpetuates the problem.  Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’” (Matthew 18: verse 21 and 22 (RSV))
So now back to the issue of education, what message do we send our children when we take localized teacher stupidity and blow it into a full fledged national firestorm where all the Al Sharpton’s and Rush Limbaugh’s of the world can spin this issue as if the world turned on coming out their way?  We loose a wonderful teaching opportunity and a chance to show our children how “civilized adults” handle mistakes, and we compound whatever simple concerns the children may have had into something much worse.
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